What to do, dad's going blind?
March 22, 2009 8:40 PM   Subscribe

What to do, dad's going blind, depressed?

This is kind of an open-ended question i guess. I am not quite sure if there would be any answer but hopefully something might help. Well my father has type-II diabetes, he has had it for around 20 years or so. recently he was diagnosed with cancer, lymphoma. Luckily just last week he had a scan and the cancer has gone away. He also had a wound in his foot from a while ago that ended up getting infected, that has got better and should hopefully be healed soon. The one problem he has had since about last year is his vision just started to get worse and worse.

I don't know the specific condition he has but has been going to the eye doctor ever since he noticed the decrease in vision. But in about January he was pretty much blind and could not see anything unless literally right in front of him, as he got off his chemo and things started to get better his vision started to increase and he could see things in front of him within about a foot and could make objects out very very blurry from a little far.

Just the past few days however his eyes were pretty much bleeding again, and well he pretty much can't see again. Now he is in extreme depression. I can't imagine what he is going through. he has been working for so many years, and is currently on sick leave, but it seems as though this will be the year for him to retire.

I can't imagine not being able to see, i mean no TV, he can't see what he is eating and has to be fed, not being able to navigate around the house, not being able to provide for the family, or go to the store or anything.

There is still a possibility for him to get better. and if not i know over time he will get used to it i guess and figure out how to live with it and ways around it. I just don't know what to do in the mean time. he is just depressed. i live away from home and my sister has told me he has even had suicidal thoughts at one point.

Going through his mind right now is he is getting closer the end, he has no more job anymore, has to spend the rest of his days laying on the bed sitting on the couch just listening. I don't know i just want to know what can make him feel better, aside from knowing that my family is all there for him. What can you really do?
posted by loser8008 to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm very sorry to hear about this. A few of my oldest family friends are going blind with old age and I know they're taking it very hard too.

I think audiobooks are really wonderful, and there's such a wide variety of them out there. Lets him kind of enter into a different world for a while, might make him laugh or keep him otherwise entertained and briefly distracted.

And just throwing it out there, maybe giving him some plasticene or something to sculpt with his hands, something tactile. Knitting's probably out, old boys don't seem to like that (women's work).

Or give him an audio recorder and help him learn where the buttons are, let him dictate some memoirs. Tell him to tell his favorite stories and get the family to transcribe them. Could be worth publishing or blogging, or just to have as a family memento.
posted by lizbunny at 8:51 PM on March 22, 2009

This is almost certainly diabetic retinopathy, not helped out by the changes in your dad's medications due to chemo, which sucks and is certainly going to make the sufferer depressed and hard to deal with.

I don't know where you are, but you need to suggest to your family that they look into local vision rehabilitation services for your father. Vision rehab teaches people to make the best use they can of what sight they have, even if that's no sight at all. The specialists at your local center will provide your dad with ways to use the computer, listen to audiobooks, get around the house safely, and even ways to assist him with getting around town, cooking, and other things he used to do for himself. There may also be therapists on-staff to help him cope with the changes and make a more positive adjustment.

If you're in Los Angeles, MeMail me and I'll get you the contact info for the local center for the partially sighted and the UCLA vision rehab folks. If not, let us know where you are and I'm sure someone else can get you the hookup.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:56 PM on March 22, 2009

Where do you live? To a large extent, this will be important in terms of what kind of training, support and technology is available to your dad. If he's blind or going blind, he will need to re-learn things to be able to be independent. But people do - blind people can certainly go to the store, navigate their homes and neighbourhoods, use the internet, and feed themselves.

Finding out what is available and getting started is probably the best thing to get him out of his depression. Does he have a cane? Has he started cane training? This is why your area is important, but there should be social services or not-for-profit agencies geared toward getting your dad his independence back. He shouldn't just have to "figure it out" on his own.

You might also find some of these clips interesting.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:56 PM on March 22, 2009

You might want to get in touch with your national organization for the blind. They will have dealt with many people in your dad's situation and would have helpful advice as well as info on services in your own community.

I don't know where you are, but

if you are in Canada: Canadian National Institute for the Blind
in the UK: Royal National Institute for the Blind
in the US: American Foundation for the Blind

Good luck to you and your dad.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:19 PM on March 22, 2009

Going by the blind boyfriend of a relative - it can very hard to accept going blind in adulthood (Well, duh, but...).
His problem seems to be refusing to 'admit he has a problem' or accept his not-so-new state. He turned down and refused most opportunities or training in how to live as a blind person.

The person I'm thinking of, who went blind as a young adult, turned down the opportunity to learn Braille, attend a live-in training program for a few months, has no audiobooks, no computer (or read-aloud software), or anything like that, no contact with support networks, and about the only thing he uses is an unmarked stick.
He's fairly insecure about people knowing he is blind... he also falls over a fair bit.

It's tragic and farcical, and yet I can understand where he's coming from, because that's a really major thing to lose. But, his reaction? So self-desctructive.
And there ARE so many things he could do! There's probably some blind MeFi's reading this right now because of the ability to use read-aloud software and things like that.

I'm thinking you could help your father by finding out if there's any support available for him, and assisting him in say, going to support meetings with him, training, anything.
He needs to know that there are people who are blind, who are leading functional lives, and who are happy, and who leave the house!
He'll probably have an easier time of it if he learns how to use some of the various accomodations sooner, rather than later (how much self-esteem would he regain from such simple tasks as just being able to eat on his own again?).
posted by Elysum at 10:40 PM on March 22, 2009

You mentioned that your father is seeing an eye doctor. It is very important that he sees an ophthalmologist who specializes in diabetic retinopathy. Depending on where the bleeding is in the eye and how extensive, in some situations partial or full sight can be restored by surgery. I have had type 1 diabetes for 54 years and have had retinopathy for 26 years. Been through many laser surgeries and a pars plana vitrectomy to remove some fairly bad hemorrhages in both eyes, and now can see fairly well. Again, it depends where the hemorrhage is and how extensive, but a specialist with this disease will need to evaluate him to tell if he can be helped. Good luck to him and by all means as others here have suggested, have him make contact with local services for the blind. They have all kinds of resources to assist those who have sight issues. Please memail me if I can help in any way...
posted by konig at 11:18 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hope your dad makes it through this OK! I'm not a doctor, but I play one on tv... My understanding of these diabetic complications are that they stem from poor control of blood sugar (either/both poor self treatment or an uncontrollable case). I would think the first step, then, would be to help your dad overcome the depression and become focused on maintaining his blood sugar at the proper levels. This should both help slow/stop the progression of the complications, but also keep his depression at a minimum. It's hard to get people to care about their numbers because as long as they are somewhat good, the person feels fine and thinks that's good enough. Education and framing is key to getting a lot of people motivated. My grandfather, for example, was a process/QC engineer in manufacturing. He doesn't know jack squat about medicine, and his doctors just told him to take his blood sugar regularly. But when my mom explained it in a way that he understood; that it's like taking a sample of a manufacturing process to tune the process and that you can't get useful information unless you take the sample predictably and regularly, he was hooked. Instead of a constant reminder that he is a sick old man, it became a game/job for him. Gather good data, and the doctors can analyze it and give good recommendations.

Depending on your dad's personality, find a way to get him engaged in the process. If he's terrified of being blind (and who wouldn't be), help him do two things- try to prevent it from happening, and learn coping skills while he can still see a little bit so that if he does lose his sight, he will have a head start on being able to live. Help him separate out his various feelings on the issue- he may be in a situation where he feels like fighting the disease is not giving his grief that its happening its fair due. I don't know the psychological term for it, but it's like the opposite of cognitive dissonance: it seems impossible to want to fight/cope while also feeling bad that something is happening. If we fight, we feel like we have to "abandon" our grief, and it doesn't want to be abandoned.

(Ron Santo, former ball player and current announcer, can be a bit of an inspiration in this regard. He has type I, but never really cared for it because he didn't want his baseball pals to know he was sick. So he medicated himself with Snickers bars for 20 years. He ended up losing both legs and having a variety of other complications. Yet he maintains a positive outlook, keeps working, and keeps working with JDRF to raise money.)
posted by gjc at 6:22 AM on March 23, 2009

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